Understanding your rights under workers’ compensation is vital, especially after you experience a workplace injury. Knowing your rights will make it easier as you go through the process of filing a claim because then you know exactly what’s expected of you and what you need to do to ensure coverage. Covering your bases is essential, and the best way to do that is to familiarize yourself with the workers’ compensation system in your state and what it covers.
IWP prioritizes patient care, so we’re creating an informative Workers’ Comp 101 series to answer all of your questions and concerns. To start it off, we want to help you figure out exactly what your rights are and what actions you should take to get the full benefit of them.
State by State Differences
The first thing that you need to understand about your rights under workers’ compensation is that they will vary depending on the state in which you live and your job. Requirements are sometimes different for independent contractors and freelancers, for example, and federal employees fall under the federal workers’ compensation system. Do your due diligence to learn about the system in your state.
That being said, certain workers’ comp rights are universal and apply to most employees.
Filing a Claim
One of your most important rights under the workers’ compensation system is your right to file a claim for your illness or your injury. When you experience an injury in the course of doing your job, you can file your claim with your employer. In most cases, that includes injuries that occur away from your job’s location, as well, so if something happens while you’re on a business trip, making a delivery, or working remotely, then you may still be entitled to a claim.
You have the right to treatment following an on-the-job injury. In fact, it’s imperative that you visit a doctor or a specialist, or obtain medical treatment in some way. However, it's best to inform your employer of the injury first.
Letting your employer know that you’ve been injured or become ill is a requirement, in fact. You need to document every step of the injury, and that begins with telling your employer. In addition to being a requirement, however, it’s also an important step in the process of seeking a medical opinion. It’s possible that you’ll have to see a specific doctor in order to correctly document the injury and make sure that it’s covered. In other instances, you may be able to choose your own doctor.
Wages and Medical Costs
In pursuing treatment, workers’ compensation should step in to cover your medical expenses as long as they’re approved. That’s why you have to inform your employer about the injury, file a claim, and visit a recommended physician, if applicable. Typically, workers’ comp will also cover any therapy you need following an injury, as well as a portion of the wages you lose when you’re out of work because of an injury.
Returning to Work
It is your right under workers’ comp to return to work, pending physician approval. If and when your doctor judges that you’re able to go back to work, then it’s your right to resume your job. In some cases, your doctor may release you with a recommendation for limited duty. That may require working with your employer to transition into another position or to tweak the expectations and responsibilities of your current position.
Your work injury might prevent you from returning to work. It can result in a temporary disability that may improve over time, or it could result in a permanent disability. Under those circumstances, you have the right to be compensated for the ensuing disability in some way.
Appealing Your Decision
It’s possible that your employer, their insurance company, or the workers’ comp court itself will challenge or reject your claim. When that happens, you’re within your rights under the workers’ compensation system to appeal the decision. You also have the right to obtain a lawyer to represent you and to help you receive compensation.
Understanding your rights under workers’ compensation is a must. Filing a claim can be frustrating and time consuming. Knowing your rights can help you to move forward with your claim and follow every step of the process. As always, IWP is here to help in any way we can, as well.
Next up in the series, we’ll discuss how much of your salary you’re entitled to when you file a workers’ compensation claim.